The “Boys of Summer” we are not. More like the “Guys of Early Autumn.” But in the winter of 2006 (see how I’m using all the seasons here?) I met each of these guys for the first time, and even though we go years between seeing each other, our friendship fits like a glove… a baseball glove.
We met as participants at the New York Mets Fantasy Camp, which I have described as the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Bill was my roommate. Before our bags were unpacked, we realized we both were from Astoria, Queens, had gone to the same elementary school, and had a crush on the same grade-school girl.
Realizing our Astoria connection, we sought out others and discovered Chris, who even now is still in Astoria, and his best buddy Tom, who had beat back a brain tumor to find himself wearing the orange and blue.
That story touched me because I, too, was here in Port St. Lucie, Fla., because my wife had said, “Life is too short,” and handed me my ticket to camp, knowing it was an item on my bucket list. I had beat back an acute critical case of a staph infection that left me waking up to see a priest giving me last rites.
Over the week in camp, we grew closer and as we played ballgames—either coached by or playing with all the heroes of our childhood—the bond began to grow. We were roughly the same age, and as we ate, drank, laughed with and talked with Mets of ‘62, ‘69, ‘73 and ‘86 (if you’re not a Mets fan, those years won’t mean anything to you), we realized that our new friendship was like a grand slam.
After the week of baseball bliss and the Shea Stadium reunion that summer, we fell back into the reality of suburban life. For the next three years, we got together once, twice a year, until I was “traded” to the desert of Arizona.
We stayed in touch with numerous e-mails, texts and calls, especially when the Mets did something exciting or cringe-worthy (hey, we’re long-suffering Mets fans, after all), but schedules had forced some long-distance attempts to be “rained out” before even stepping on the field.
This year, we all promised and gave virtual pinky oaths that this year would be the year. Again, due to work and/or travel plans, we chose two games in Denver, Colo., between the Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Flights were booked, an Airbnb was secured, and since I would be driving up, they gave me the flight that, thankfully, all three of them would arrive on.
We almost took a call “strike three” when the first place we had put money on had to cancel, but our relief house was even better and closer to Coors Field.
The friendship took off again like a 99-mile-an-hour fastball, and while I wouldn’t exactly call it three days of late-night debauchery, booze and baseball, we did eat out for every meal and threw all carbohydrate and calorie caution to the wind with maybe one beer… a light beer at that.
Since the games were at night, I showed them a little of Golden one day and Red Rocks Park the next day. At night after the game—partiers that we were—and in between countless Mets trivia questions, we watched movies, fittingly “Field of Dreams” one night and “A League of Their Own” the other. In between, we shared the ups and downs of our lives and realized that our friendship was more than baseball.
Promises were made to do this again, and sooner rather than later. Though we all bleed orange and blue, I promised them and they promised me that our renewed close bond is a first vote shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
Brian Curry is a longtime Long Island Advance columnist and is a three-time winner of the New York State Press Association’s “Column of the Year.” You can contact him at email@example.com
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